Samurai Warriors 5 is a fresh take on the long-run Koei Tecmo franchise and aims to bring in the best of the best fueled by new modes, graphics engine, and story-telling elements, but with a small takeaway from overall game modes for fans to enjoy.
+Graphical changes bring an entirely new art style
+A more centralized and focused story
+Modes have been downsized into a subset within the campaign itself
+Overall performance is rather surprising on the Nintendo Switch
-long-time fans may find a lack of modes deterring as far as replayability is concerned
There’s a lot of truth in the statement that Omega Force does what a lot of others can’t, at least at the scale and precision they do, which is quite astonishing. When it comes to Musou games, Omega Force has the market to themselves, delivering a steady stream of their titles every console generation and ensuring fans can explore new stories in profound ways.
They’ve been the minds behind franchises such as Hyrule Warriors, Samurai Warriors, Gundam Warriors, and Dynasty Warriors. Their titles are unique, each one delivering stories that have yet to be explored, or to be re-explored in entirely new fashions. Their 1vs1000 approach is unique, fun, and at times, downright challenging.
However, since the early days of the PlayStation 4 family, the Samurai Warriors series had been absent while Omega Force worked on a range of Dynasty Warriors and Hyrule Warriors titles. Most recently, of course, being the newly released Samurai Warriors 5, which takes the series into an entirely new direction.
A dawn of a new era for the Samurai Warriors series
Surprisingly enough, with age, there is change, and this is very true for Samurai Warriors 5. The story itself is entirely different than previous games. It wasn’t hinged on a singular character as it is now. Sure, you will play as other characters, but your focal point is Oda Nobunaga and his journey into becoming one of Japan’s most famed leaders and tacticians throughout all of history.
You’ll witness his life through his eyes, at least the life they’ve designed for this game. That includes his marriage, the betrayals he faced from allied clans, and the hardships that he went through alongside his friends, family, and allies. The storytelling itself is actually quite cinematic, giving fans quite a few cutscenes. This new approach works much better than it had before as the characters are easy to understand, form bonds with, and enjoy overall.
The new art style, however, could take some getting used to for lifelong fans. The game has stepped away from its previous style, which had begun to show its age in Samurai Warriors 4, and Dynasty Warriors 9. It’s a major shift that goes from beautiful shiny metals to a beautiful Japanese watercolor style approach. Due to how this works, the entire game looks quite different and ultimately looks like a moving piece of art.
Don’t be fooled, nothing else has drastically changed. You’ll still smash your way through hordes of enemies, increase difficulties in previously completed missions as your warriors level up, and even maintain your base as you play. There has been, to say the least, a few minor structural changes to this latest entry that is worth discussing.
Unlocking characters and Free Mode missions requires campaign completion in some form or another
Unlike some of the previous games where you could just go into the Free Mode, pick whatever warrior you want, you can’t do that here. It’s actually not possible due to how this latest game is designed. This one works quite differently due to its overall emphasis on the campaign itself and learning how to use each character as you play.
As you do complete missions, unlock characters, and enjoy the campaign, you’ll find that there are several avenues that open up. One, missions can be played in basic campaign mode. Two, you can go through and play each mission, as you wish, in Free Mode, but also, you can go in and play Citadel Mode, which comes with varying degrees of challenges that await players.
The Citadel Mode is the most important to discuss as it does go hand-in-hand with the campaign. To improve your gear, your purchases, and your characters, you’ll find that there are materials needed to improve things such as your Dojo, Blacksmith, and Shop. Those materials are exclusive to the Citadel Mode and there is truly no other way to obtain said items outside of this mode.
The mode itself comes with completion times, allowing you to focus on doing this better, faster, and to a degree that you hadn’t previously done. Of course, you can come back at a later date and complete them faster than before and earn better scores so that you can unlock better armor, weapons, and more materials.
Replayability does take a minor hit in Samurai Warriors 5
One of the drawbacks to the new approach is the lack of variety. While the missions are quite enjoyable, and that there are chapters for various characters, it does seem as though the mission structure and replayability approach took a smallscale hit. To some, this may not be horrible as the campaign itself does stretch approximately 20-24 hours depending on the amount of time you invest into each and every campaign.
If one were to do that, it’s easy to say that the game could go well over the 40+ hour mark, and with increased difficulty options for better rewards and more challenge, the replayability could exceed well over 80 hours. For some, however, this might just be a bit of fluff and takes away from the possibility of campaigns that spread throughout the history of Japan.
But it is worth noting that the Citadel Mode and its additives do add to the experience and they do leave a lot of room for growth and challenge. Their rewards are astonishing, especially for completionists who want to obtain and train every single horse in the game or maximize the capabilities of their characters through weapon and armor upgrades.
Performance on the Nintendo Switch is something worth discussing
Now, since this is one of the FEW Musou games on the Nintendo Switch, it does seem incredibly important to discuss a few factors, which include battery life, performance, and handling. This discussion point is simply because the Nintendo Switch itself has a few drawbacks in handheld and a few drawbacks in docked with various games.
Surprisingly, that’s not really the case here with Samurai Warriors 5. The game itself, while seemingly using a Dynamic Resolution Scale method, doesn’t seem to take any massive hits worth noticing. Even during its most chaotic moments, much like Hyrule Warriors, the game runs like a champ.
Performance, graphics, and even battery life seem to be rather well optimized, causing little room for concern among those who might be wondering if and when they should expect their batteries to need a recharge. After several sessions on a Gen 1 console, we found that Samurai Warriors 5 would let the battery last roughly three hours, on a Gen 2 console, around 4. Not much difference considering the game itself is pretty well optimized.
In docked, the graphics do pop a bit more, scaling up to what looks to be around 900p at 30fps, while looking around 720p or slightly lower in handheld mode. Graphics, however, when compared to PC, PlayStation, or Xbox platforms, do take a moderate hit, but it should be expected on a lower-end piece of hardware.
Whilst it does seem that Samurai Warriors 5 is taking a few good size dings, it’s not, but rather the opposite. The game does improve the overall flow of content, allowing fans to not feel overwhelmed by choosing between all the modes the game has, but rather, simplifying it by integrating the fluff into a couple of single options versus a gigantic menu.
The overall approach works well in Omega Force’s favor, but also, the favor of the fans. From simplified menus to a direct story that stretches into stories with other characters, Samurai Warriors 5 takes a worthwhile note from other projects that Omega Force has worked on in the past, most notably Hyrule Warriors thanks to its focus on character development, overall playability, but also performance.
Samurai Warriors 5
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Omega Force
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: Available Now
The only drawback is the fact that Samurai Warriors 5 does find itself getting minor hits and bumps based on the limited replayability for diehard fans and how it might affect them in the long run. Regardless, this is definitely a must-have for fans of Musou titles and the Warriors franchise as a whole.
Our review is based upon a retail version of the game that was provided to us by the publisher for the review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native video game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook today.